Being Up Side Down and Lymphedema

Moving Bridge Yoga Pose For LymphedemaBy Diana Ross, ERYT 500, Co-founder Breast Cancer Yoga

“Any health concern on lymphedema – no matter how big or small warrants accurate and reliable facts. These facts breed not misinform or mislead the right call-to-action.”
My question is “Do inversions (or inverted postures) in yoga help or hurt the student/patient with the potential or concern for further hampering lymphedema?” There are two types of inversions, first a mild inversion where the hips are higher then the heart, and second a full inversion where the hips and legs are higher.

Some exercise programs are performed without proper compression, swelling may worsen as well as tissue trauma and inflammation. I have been torn between “Are inversions good or bad for lymphedema?” I have seen it presented both ways. Well, after research and interviews this is what I found out to be true. Motion and deep breathing is key because of the stimulation of venous and lymphatic return to the affected area. Some of the poses in Breast Cancer Yoga, for example Moving Bridge where arms are called into action in a moving flow with hips lifting up higher than the chest can result in pain reduction, as well as the spine being brought into proper alignment and the rehydration of the intervertebral discs. Now with all this being said even if you are or are not flowing the arms in an inversion there could be noticeable muscle relaxation in an inverted yoga pose. This ultimately encourages the reduction of recovery time. To add to these direct benefits, the use of inverted yoga poses that promote non-repetitive movements also confirm to stimulate venous return in the lymphatic system; as well as stimulating the autonomic nervous system and its baroreceptors (sensitive receptor). Wear your garments when you exercise if your arm feels achy or heavy. Otherwise, it is recommended not to wear your sleeve and gauntlet while exercising.

Here are some simple rules for being upside down or right side up.

  • Yoga is good for both prevention and control of lymphedema.
  • Start slowly but gradually build up to your former activity level.
  • With any new activity, start slowly and increase gradually.
  • It is important to take frequent rests, or rotate activities to avoid overuse or constant repetition.
  • Stay well hydrated and avoid caffeine drinks.

It is important to Stop at once if you experience heaviness, aching, firmness, or swelling. Rest and elevate your arm. You may want to try the activity again the next day, but stop earlier and plan to proceed slowly. Stay active, but be watchful .
My conclusion is this: yoga is a wonderful way to promote breast health and lymphedema management. Inversions are indeed beneficial for lymphedema and for good health. Repetitive movements should be monitored SLOWLY. The bottom line is to start at the beginning, do not over do, pace yourself and be mindful; Rest, rest, rest. Lymphedema can happen anytime.

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross: E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

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  1. Marg Allan says:

    My adult son suffers with lymphedema in his left arm as a result of multiple node resection due to advanced melanoma. This of course is an impediment to his work ( tradesman) – would he also benefit from exercises thru yoga ?


  2. helensamia says:

    Would the inversion poses be very good for Lymphedema of the legs… They always say to elevate the legs higher than the heart… So would these poses help this?? Thanks


    • If they say to elevate legs, then an inversion would be a good thing. I believe if someone is breathing, moving and resting then the pose will be helpful. It always gets back to paying attention to what your body is saying and to approach anything new with an inner awareness of “how does this feel”. Hope I answered your question.


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